A couple of months ago, I realized that my bingeing had pushed my weight up to a point where not only was I unhappy with the way I looked (I’m working on that), but I honestly didn’t FEEL all that great, either. I was above my personal “Healthy” weight by about 10 pounds or so. So I started workout out, eating better (er, sort of – more on that later), all that good stuff.
And I’ve dropped about 10 pounds. I’m at the middle-to-high end of my healthy weight range right now – not according to BMI or fat calipers or any of that, but according to how I FEEL. According to whether I can run on the treadmill or whether I get out of breath climbing several flights of stairs or whether I wake up in the morning feeling energized vs. lethargic. I’m feeling much better now than I did a couple of months ago, and if I lose another 5-8 pounds, I’ll feel fantastic.
But I won’t be thin. My face will still be round, my dress size firmly entrenched in the double digits (where, in all fairness, it remained even when I was starving – although with vanity sizing these days, my college-sized self would probably be a US 6 or MAYBE an 8). I won’t be comfortable in a bikini (damned social conditioning) and I’ll still be hyper-conscious of what I put in my grocery cart.
And I’ll want to keep dieting. I already know that. Because I will have dropped down into a Healthy Weight range, but not low enough for Vanity Weight. To be quite specific with the numbers, I hit a high of 190. Right now I’m just under 180. I feel healthy between 170 and 180. But I LOOK thin at 140. I don’t feel unhealthy at that weight, but neither are there any additional health benefits for me at 140 that I don’t have at 170. The numbers are the same. So that 30 pound difference is all about vanity. It’s all about what a culture tells me my body should look like, and my capitulation to that culture.
Please be assured that if I “eat right and exercise” my body will NOT naturally drop to 140. It takes some very aggresive, borderline compulsive dieting to get there, and to get any lower takes a flat-out eating disorder. But I really want to be that weight. I really want the scale to hover between 140 and 145. I want the 27-inch waist that comes with that weight. I want the Jessica Biel muscles (which I’ve had, at least in my lower body, and which are the specific reason that my weight doesn’t get much lower than 140 without starving).
And still, I come back to the question of why? Why, when I KNOW that I’m healthy at a higher weight, a weight that’s easy to maintain, that seems to get positive feedback from both men and women, WHY do I want so much to be smaller? And in the end, I have to acknowledge that it’s straight-up cultural conditioning. Way back when, I posted a question that had been asked of me at one time:
Think of all the things you want to do that you’ll be able to do when you lose weight. Whether it’s to climb a flight of stairs, run a marathon or play with your kids in the backyard. Imagine your “perfect” life. Now imagine that you woke up tomorrow, and all those things were true . . . but your weight is exactly the same. Do you still want to lose? Or are you genuinely happy with where you’re at? Taken a step further, what if you had to choose between being a super-healthy, fantastic athlete at your current weight, or a not-so-healthy thin person who gets winded climbing stairs but looks good by society’s standards? Which do you choose?
I never forgot that scenario (obviously). And I know what I’d like to THINK I choose, but I also hear a small, insistent voice way down deep in the depths of my consciousness saying, “But we could be THIN.” I don’t like that voice: it’s the voice that was shaped by my culture, the voice that isn’t even really MINE in a way, a voice that was implanted in me as I grew up (as all our cultural expectations are). But it put down roots, and the culture watered it, and I fertilized it, and now I can’t really separate out where It ends and I begin. We are one, that voice and I. And it wants to be thin. And so do I.
So when I started losing weight, I told myself I would get down to my healthy weight, and then just keep doing what I was doing, and when I stopped losing weight, I would just stop. I wouldn’t push it any farther. I would try my best to find that happy medium between thin and crazy. But this last week, my weight loss plateaued and I found myself freaking out. What if I couldn’t lose? What if this was it? What if, what if, what if?
As it turned out, I dropped 3 pounds literally overnight. And then I remembered, oh yeah. My body has always been this way: for days, sometimes weeks, the scale will show nothing, or at best, teeny incremental changes. And then one morning I’ll wake up and be 3 or 4 or even 8 or 9 pounds lighter. It’s like the weight vanished in the night, and it doesn’t come back. (And it’s happened with every scale I’ve ever owned, on every surface I can find to put it on, so it’s not a scale malfunction. You can IMAGINE how much that mind-fucked the nice ladies at Weight Watchers.)
I was actually distressed to realize how relieved I was when the scale dropped. I was distressed to realize how much I want the Vanity Weight, as opposed to being happy with the Healthy Weight. I don’t like how much I’ve bought into the idea of being Perfect and Thin, but so far I haven’t been able to shake it.
Maybe for now, it’s enough to just be aware of the dichotomy existing in my head. In fact, it has to be enough, because so far, that’s as far as I’ve been able to get. On the other hand, 5 years ago I wasn’t even conscious of the dichotomy, so that’s still progress. Two steps forward, one step back.